Source of salts in the Waianae part of the Pearl Harbor aquifer near Barbers Point water tunnel, Oahu, Hawaii

Water-Resources Investigations Report 87-4247




The salinity of the water supply of Barbers Point Naval Air Station has increased markedly since 1983. The Naval Air Station obtains its water, about 3 million gal/day, from Barbers Point shaft, a water shaft that taps the Waianae part of the Pearl Harbor aquifer underlying the dry, southeastern flank of the Waianae mountains on the island on Oahu, Hawaii. From 1983 to 1985 the chloride concentration of the water, increased from 220 to 250 mg/L and has remained near that level through 1986. The EPA has established 250 mg/L as the maximum recommended chloride concentration in drinking water because above that level many people can taste the salt. The high chloride concentration in shallow groundwater at all wells in the area indicates that most of the salts in the freshwater lens are contributed by rainfall, sea spray, and irrigation return water. At Barbers Point shaft, pumping may draw a small amount of saltwater from the transition zone and increase the chloride concentration in the pumped water by about 20 mg/L. Salinity of the lens decreases progressively inland in response to recharge from relatively fresher water and in response to an increasing lens thickness with increasing distance from the shoreline. The increase, in 1983, in the chloride concentration of water at the shaft was most probably the result of saltier recharge water reaching the water table, and not the result of increased mixing of underlying saltwater with the freshwater. The chloride concentration of the recharge water has probably increased because, in 1980, the drip method of irrigation began to replace the furrow method on sugarcane fields near the shaft. A mixing-cell model was used to estimate the effect of drip irrigation on the chloride concentration of the groundwater in the vicinity of Barbers Point shaft. The model predicted an increase in chloride concentration of about 50 mg/L. The observed increase was about 30 mg/L and the chloride concentration is presently stable at 245 to 250 mg/L; hence, the chloride concentration is not expected to increase significantly more. (Lantz-PTT)

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USGS Numbered Series
Source of salts in the Waianae part of the Pearl Harbor aquifer near Barbers Point water tunnel, Oahu, Hawaii
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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U.S. Geological Survey,
v, 48 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.